The analyst community has been abuzz about context-aware computing -- delivering customized, engaging online experiences that take into account user context such as gender, location, time of day/year, weather, social media “likes” and updates. In fact, a recent Gartner report stated that “Context-aware computing -- the concept of leveraging information about the end user to improve the quality of the interaction -- can improve business results.”
We wanted to gauge if companies are actually providing this type of experience to its users, so we conducted an independent survey of over 1,100 German and U.S. Internet users to get some insight into consumer satisfaction with their digital experience across several key areas, including website personalization and mobile website usage. The survey found that companies are failing to meet expectations for the majority of consumers. More than half of the survey participants (56 percent) indicated that they do not feel as though website content is tailored to their personal needs or preferences.
Survey: Mobile Access isn't Great
The survey also explored mobile Web sentiment. With smartphone adoption accelerating in both the U.S. and Europe (27 percent and 31 percent of mobile subscribers, respectively, in 2010 ), analysts are recommending companies focus on creating a seamless experience in terms of how they engage with their customers across all channels. Over a third (36 percent) of those surveyed, however, felt most sites are often difficult to read on a mobile device, and 40 percent said they do not regularly access mobile sites because it is too complicated.
Another interesting finding relates to expectations regarding mobile when compared to traditional desktop browsing: 24 percent felt that most mobile sites are missing the functionality that one finds on websites when accessed via a PC. This supports the theory that rather than the more immersive Web experience one expects when using a desktop, people use mobile devices for specific goals -- quick searches, social media updates or transactions, etc. Despite the increasing trends in mobile usage and the understanding of the different intentions associated with mobile web access, it appears companies still have a bit more work to do on delivering an engaging user experience across all channels.
Gartner offers an explanation behind this disconnect, reporting “Despite some of the benefits, there is a perception in the market that the level of understanding required to deliver an appropriate user experience across multiple channels of interaction remains elusively difficult or prohibitively expensive to achieve.” When it comes to implementing contextualized Web or mobile services, organizations often tend to look to technology alone.
Although Web content management vendors have created compelling solutions that allow companies and organizations to build their online Web presence, these platforms often require specialized IT staff to address the targeting of content to specific audiences or devices. Seldom is this in fact done, often due to the competing goals of IT and the business. This role is best left to the marketer or business user, who best understands both the business and engagement drivers behind the user experience, and their audience’s context and needs.
What Users are Looking For
To get a better sense of what users are actually expecting when they visit a company’s website, we looked more closely at user preferences for their online experiences. The majority of respondents (69 percent) chose the ability to quickly find what they are searching for as the top priority. Almost a quarter of the respondents selected websites that could easily adapt to their current needs as their number one preference, and 14 percent of survey respondents identified being able to comment, recommend or retweet as taking precedence. The message is clear -- consumers want engaging, interactive experiences, but above all, the interaction must quickly meet their desired outcome, and this goes well beyond search functionality.
So what can be done to bridge this gap? The ability to create content effectively underpins the development of more customized experiences for customers. Organizations need to break out of traditional Web publishing cycles, not waiting for the next site update but rather actioning changes immediately. Technology is only part of the solution (and often the easiest part). Again, it’s all about empowering the business user who must be intimately involved and in control of designing and delivering these contextual experiences across all touchpoints to make sure there is true alignment of customer and business issues.
The deployment of the most advanced website and mobile Web apps is likely to fall consistently short -- and consequently fail -- if they don’t gain the full support of an organization’s wider business, IT and marketing functions. Arming business users with a content management system that they can easily use to create and preview context-aware user experiences that adapt to each individual will result in the creation of highly engaging, more productive web experiences. This in turn can dramatically impact your bottom line and your customer loyalty and satisfaction. We anticipate there to be a shift in the 2012 survey results!
Editor's Note: Follow all of our experts views on Web Engagement, including:
- Personalization and Retargeting: Can Your Analytics Handle It?
- Web Content Management in 2011: It Ain't Going Anywhere
- WEM: In a Social Media World, is there a Future for the Website?